If there is one physics rule that the central planners know all about, in their utter disdain of virtually every other natural principle, regression to the mean being the most prominent one, it is the law of communicating vessels. Only instead of water, the central banks use monetary liquidity to achieve equivalency across the various different vessels a/k/a capital shortfall locations. Such as the Spanish financial sector. Think that "Spain is fine"? Look at the chart below and think again. And don't even get us started on Portugal. How long before the residents of Portugal and Spain pull a Greece and withdraw 20% of statutory bank deposits in a year, in the process starting the terminal unwind of these two countries financial cores and putting them on day to day ECB life support? Oh wait, they already have. The chart below, showing Spanish bank borrowings from the ECB, is self-explanatory, even when factored in for "seasonal adjustments."
It's getting to the point where the rating agencies are so far behind the reality curve that they are putting the system at risk again, and again, and again...
The bearish sentiment following Moody’s overnight catch-up move to S&P failed to have a long-lasting effect on sentiment today. Instead, better than expected German ZEW, together with another well bid Italian debt auction saw equities stage an impressive rally which in turn lifted indices into positive territory. As a result, Bund futures are trading back below the 138.00 level, while peripheral bond yield spread are generally tighter on the session. The risk on sentiment also boosted the energy complex which saw WTI crude futures climb back above 101.00 level (note: Brent March future expiry). Looking elsewhere, EUR/USD advanced above 1.3200 level after triggering stops. Of note, intraday option expiries are seen at 1.3220 and then at 1.3300 (large). USD/JPY is up after the BoJ announced that it will undertake additional monetary easing action and expand its asset-purchase fund by JPY 10trl, while touted buying by Russian names also supported the pair this morning.
While all the focus has been on Greece in recent days, the global nature of the debt crisis came to the fore yesterday and overnight. This was seen in the further desperate measures by the BOJ and Moodys warning that the UK could lose its AAA rating. Some of us have been saying for some years that this was inevitable but markets remain myopic of the risks posed by this. Possibly the greatest risk is that of the appalling US fiscal situation which continues to be downplayed and not analysed appropriately. President Obama unveiled a massive $3.8 trillion budget yesterday and he is to increase Federal spending by 53% to $5.820 trillion by 2022. The US government is projected to spend over $6 trillion a year by 2022. Still bizarrely unaccounted for is the ticking time bomb of unfunded entitlement liabilities - Social Security and Medicare, which Washington continues to deal with by completely ignoring them. While Washington and markets are for now ignoring the fiscal train wreck that is the US. This will change with inevitable and likely extremely negative consequences for markets – particularly US bond markets and for the dollar.
- BOJ Adds to Monetary Easing After Contraction (Bloomberg)
- EU to punish Spain for deficits, inaction (Reuters)
- Obama, China's Xi to tread cautiously in White House talks (Reuters)
- Global suicide 2020: We can’t feed 10 billion (MarketWatch)
- Greece rushes to meet lender demands (Reuters)
- Obama Budget Sets Up Election-Year Tax Fight (Reuters)
- Foreign Outcry Over ‘Volcker Rule’ Plans (FT)
- Moody’s Shifts Outlook for UK and France (FT)
- France to Push On With Trading Tax (FT)
Moody's Downgrades Italy, Spain, Portugal And Others; Puts UK, France On Outlook Negative - Full StatementSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/13/2012 19:00 -0400
You know there is a reason why Europe just came crawling with an advance handout looking for US assistance: Moody's just went apeshit on Europe.
- Austria: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
- France: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
- Italy: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook
- Malta: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook
- Portugal: downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2, negative outlook
- Slovakia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook
- Slovenia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook
- Spain: downgraded to A3 from A1, negative outlook
- United Kingdom: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
In other news, we wouldn't want to be the company that insured Moody's Milan offices.
As the Germans ponder the truthiness of Greece's planned austerity measures it will perhaps come as a shock to many that since the start of the Euro (Dec 1998), Greece (followed closely by Spain and Ireland) has experienced the highest nominal GDP growth rates (rebased to USD) among a sample of large global economies (ex-China). As Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid points out from this surprising fact, these three nations (and to a lesser extent Portugal) have been major beneficiaries of the Euro and have seen their economies improve their international wealth position at a faster rate than their developed market peers since 1999. In the current environment, post the leverage super-cycle, this creates stress (as is all too obvious) and in the medium-term we would expect mean-reversion of this 'fake' wealth/growth. The dilemma is whether the peripheral nations see large and negative GDP growth to revert down or if Germany is willing to accept far higher growth and inflation (maybe 7% nominal) to adjust upwards to the seemingly unsustainable levels of the peripherals. Austerity versus Growth/Inflation. It seems from Ireland's suffering and Greece's slide that the former (peripheral deleveraging and austerity) is the path chosen for now though ongoing appetite (Papademos/Samaras aside) for this seems as unpalatable as German's accepting socialized losses via firewall and the specter of high inflation.
Stocks advanced today after Greek lawmakers finally approved a new austerity package aimed at averting a default. As a result, it now looks like that the country will get the next bailout tranche and avoid failing to meet debt redemptions in March. The draft legislation published by the Greek government showed that the EFSF may provide EUR 35bln to help Greece buy back bonds held by euro-area central banks as collateral, while Greek finance minister said that EUR 70bln in bonds are to be issued in the swap and Greece needs to make debt swap offer by Friday Feb 17th at the latest. Credit metrics such as Euribor and Euribor/OIS spreads continued to improve, which in turn supported financial sector. Looking elsewhere, comments from Iranian President Ahmadinejad over the weekend who said that Iran will soon reveal "very big new achievements" in its controversial nuclear programme, together with comments from China’s Wen who said the country will begin to fine tune its economic policies in the Q1 of this year supported both Brent and WTI crude prices today. Going forward, there are no major macro-economic releases this afternoon, but both the BoE and the Fed are due to conduct another round of Asset Purchases.
When discussing the Greek vote to pass a request for cash which is based on nothing substantial but merely more pledges to fix its economy in exchange for fresh billions in secured debt (aka bailouts) which will prime at least 136% of the country's GDP with a direct lien, we said all that matters is Germany's response. In which case ths following statement from German FinMin Schauble is likely indicative that this time around Greece will need to literally move mountains to convince Europe it will comply. From Reuters: "Greek promises on austerity measures are no longer good enough because so many vows have been broken and the country that has been a "bottomless pit" has to dramatically change its ways, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. In a hard-hitting interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Schaeuble also said it is up to Greece whether the country can stay in the euro zone as part of its efforts to restore its competitiveness. "The promises from Greece aren't enough for us anymore," Schaeuble said. "With a new austerity programme they are going to first have to implement parts of the old programme and save." Yet one wonders just how will Greece first implement the measures from the first one if Europe has to vote tomorrow (or Wednesday, it is all a blur now), on ratifying the second bailout. Or was this weekend's entire Greek exercise merely one of complete irrelevance. In other news, we are fairly confident that February budget revenues are going to come in well below projections, and make the already disappointing January numbers seem like gangbusters.
- Greek Parliament Backs Austerity as Rioters Burn Buildings (Bloomberg)
- China CIC Wary of EU Government Bond Investments (Reuters)
- Spain Unions Decry New Labor Rules (WSJ)
- China Tells Banks to Roll Over Loans (FT)
- We're Not Greece: Italian Prime Minister Monti (CNBC)
- Bernanke’s Labor Pessimism at Odds With U.S. Growth (Bloomberg)
- Obama Budget Seeks Funding for Trade Unit (Bloomberg)
- Obama's Election-Year Budget to Target Rich (Reuters)
- China May Need to Fine-Tune Policy This Quarter, Wen Says (Bloomberg)
- China’s Xi Seeks Second Front for U.S. Ties in Return to Iowa (Bloomberg)
- Why Greece and Portugal Ought to go Bankrupt (FT)
We have been warning of the bearish divergence in European credit markets all week and today saw that trend continue as the best-performers of the year-to-date become the biggest losers on the week. Financials and high-yield (crossover) credit have dramatically underperformed this week (with XOver +50bps touching 600bps once again) as credit overall trades considerably wider than before the NFP-print jump. Investment grade is wider but diverging a little today as decompression trades are laid back out and up-in-quality trades are reconsidered - and away from financials which have seen their senior unsecured credit spreads jump from under 190bps to almost 220bps on the week. Broad equity markets in Europe also saw their worst week of the year but are lagging the credit sell-off for now and sit (for context) right around the pre-NFP jump levels. Sovereigns were mixed on the week with the last couple of days seeing notable deterioration. Spanish spreads are +33bps, Italian spreads are -9bps on the week but are 25-30bps off their tights but it appears Portugal was the darling of the ECB this week as it managed an impressive 100bps compression (10Y now almost 500bps off its wides on 1/30) but this impressive tightening only gets the peripheral nation back to 1050bps (and mid-January levels - still triple the level of risk of a year ago).
The situation in Greece has taken a more sinister turn. The outrage in Greece is growing. More and more of the people on my distribution list with ties to Greece are pointing out how bad things are there. Daily life is getting more difficult by the day for most people, yet the EU has told the Greeks that their current offer isn’t enough and that they have doubts about its implementation. At least they got that right, the austerity measures, will not remain implemented. It seems obvious to anyone who hasn’t become locked into a negotiating stance that the whole austerity idea isn’t working. It is possible over the weekend that the Greek parliament will defer to EU demands and vote in a plan that is “acceptable” but I don’t see it lasting. The people are fed up and more and more realize that defaulting and costing the foreign bankers money is worth a shot. Default is NOT the end of the world or of Greece. For all the politicians who keep saying default is the end, they are just wrong. It will cause problems, but Greece will survive, and for the first time can start focusing on a plan to move forward rather than dealing just with problems of the past.
Hands up anyone who is surprised that the Bank of England has added another £50 billion to the quantitative easing pot? The same hands will also believe that the Greeks have agreed terms for the next bail out tranche with the Troika (the European Union, the IMF and the European Central Bank). This ongoing epic odyssey of the voyage to nowhere has grabbed the headlines, but the BoE’s quiet announcement is equally significant to us Brits. Central banks never utter the words quantitative easing, so the Bank calls it an addition to its “asset purchase programme”, which was only hiked to £275 billion back in October. The accompanying rhetoric states that inflation is on the way back down and may fall below their target of 2%, mainly as a result of the VAT increase last January falling out of the equation and lower energy prices, (despite Brent crude being over 10% higher Y-o-Y in sterling terms..); a convenient excuse perhaps.
UPDATE: Ironic timing (via Bloomberg)...*VENIZELOS SAYS GREECE FACES CHOICE OF STAYING IN EURO OR NOT, *GREEK DEBT SUSTAINABILITY NO WAY NEAR 120%, DE JAGER SAYS, and *ECB SHOULD CONTRIBUTE TO REDUCTION OF GREEK DEBT, JUNCKER SAYS
In an incredibly candid 'informal' discussion caught on video by Portugal's TVi24 television crew, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble gives Portuguese finance minister Vitor Gaspar 'the nod' that after the Greek deal is done, Germany will relax the conditions of the financial assistance program for Portugal. While the soundtrack is a little flaky, it is clear that the German finmin notes they must remain resolute in their conditions against Greece in order to maintain the appearance of 'seriousness' with the fellow members of the Greek parliament and more importantly the people of Germany. It would appear that once they have flexed their muscles against the Greeks (think Lehman?) then (and only then) can (and will) they 'help' the Portuguese. Perhaps the hard default is the way they expect this to play out with the assumption they can post-hoc avoid contagion in some manner but nevertheless, Samaras' comments this afternoon on growth and a focus away from austerity do not sit in any way complementary to Schaeuble's comments in this candid-camera moment.
Portuguese TV is having a field day with the clip as they note: Vítor Gaspar was "looking like a student trying to impress the teacher," was how the commentator saw the episode. Adding, the minister "did everything but say that not only is doing everything right as even very fond of the austerity policy."
Is The ECB's Collateral Pool Expansion A €7.1 Trillion Imminent "Trash To Cash" Increase In Its Balance Sheet?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/09/2012 10:49 -0400
While a lot of the just completed Draghi press conference was mostly fluff, the one notable exception was the announcement that the European central bank would "approve eligibility criteria for additional credit claims" (see below). While purposefully vague on the topic, Draghi noted that the step is one of onboarding even more risk: "Sure, it's going to be more risky. Does that mean that we take more risk? Yes, it means we take more risk. Does it mean this risk is being unmanaged? No, it is being managed. And it's being - it's going to be managed very well because really there will be a strong overcollateralization for the additional credit claims. The conditions will be very stringent." While it remains to be seen just how stringent the conditions will be, but a bigger question is what is the total pool of eligible claims that can be used to flood the ECB in exchange for freshly printed cash. For that we go to Goldman whose Jernej Omahen a month ago calculated the impact of the expanded collateral pool which was formally confirmed today. To wit: "Scarcity of collateral was becoming an evident problem for a large number of banks, especially smaller and medium sized. In our view, the ECB’s collateral pool expansion was therefore a critical decision. Select corporate loans – which form over >€7 tn, or >30% of total balance sheets – will now be admissible for refinancing operations, through national central banks. Criteria on eligibility have yet to be determined – we are therefore not able to quantify the actual expansion of collateral pool at this stage. That said, the €7 tn starting points suggests it will be significant." In other words, and this is excluding anything to do with the LTRO, the ECB just greenlighted a potential expansion to its balance sheet all the way up to €7 trillion. Will banks use this capacity to convert "trash to cash" - why of course they will, and this goes to the very heart of the biggest problem with Europe: the fact that there are virtually no money good assets left as collateral, which requires the implicit rehypothecation of bank "assets" back to the ECB, to procure cash, to pay out cash on liabilities. How much will they do - we don't know yet. We will find out very soon. What we do know is that the ECB's €2.7 trillion balance sheet is about to expand dramatically, pushing the European central bank even further into bad bank status. And this is excluding the upcoming new usage of the Discount Window known as the LTRO in three weeks. Trade accordingly.